Top 10 Tips for Transitioning To Life In Korea

Nervous about heading overseas? Wondering how you’ll handle the transition to life in Korea?  Here are my top 10 tips to making transition a breeze!

transition to life in korea

Holy crap! You are moving to South Korea! You do your last minute shopping and you scour online forums for advice but you know that nothing can truly prepare you for this experience of a lifetime! In order to help you reduce your learning curve, I’ve compiled my top ten tips for transitioning to life in Korea.

1. Bring your favourite essentials

While you may be able to find many name brand products in major cities in South Korea, your go-to essentials or specialized items might be a little harder to come by. Ensure you don’t leave home without the things that you can’t possibly live without; whether that is your life-saving medication or your subtly scented perfume. This will take the pressure off needing to find them right away in your new home or having to wait for mom to mail them to you.

2. Learn a few key phrases

No one expects you to master a new language overnight, and it will take some time for your ears to adjust to the totally new sounds of a very foreign language. Don’t stress about it! Take your time, but arm yourself with a few helpful phrases. I recommend learning your address and directional words (such as straight, left, right, stop and go), basic food and beverages and of course, common swear words so you know when your students are trying to test your limits.

3. Befriend your co-teachers

Learn as much as you can from your co-workers. They can greatly reduce your learning curve in your new role and give you tips and tricks for handling your students and your new life. They can help you get set up with things like a phone (or, y’know, you could go the easy way and use the arrival store!) setting up a bank account, as well as serving as your culinary and nightlife guide. You may even meet your best friends!

4. Explore on foot and bus

The South Korean subway system is cheap, easy to use and efficient, but it is also predominantly underground. Take opportunities to walk and take the bus so that you can learn your surroundings and get your bearings. Not only will you be better able to orient yourself, you may also find some great little community gems like shops, markets and parks.

5. Sound it out

There is often English written next to Korean, especially on public transit. As the Korean written language is phonetic like English, once you become familiar with the characters you can start sounding out words. Seeing the words next to their English counterparts gives you an opportunity to test your knowledge and gain confidence in your basic understanding. You will also start recognizing Konglish everywhere that you go! Want to prepare a little?

6. Get to know your local grocery store

Korean grocery stores are full of Korean foods and products that you won’t be familiar with, as well as products that you know but may not recognize. Take your time wandering around your local grocery store, corner stores and markets, so that you know where to find basic ingredients and every-day products like dish soap and shampoo. Or you can head over to the High Street Market for more familiar goods — it’s just a bit more pricey. 

7. Learn where to find breakfast

I don’t know about you but I love a good ‘ol western breakfast, especially if I’ve been a little, erm, shall we say ‘thirsty’ the night before. It’s not always easy to find a joint that serves a classic plate of bacon and eggs, so ask those new coworker friends of yours where you can curb your cravings so you can enjoy that taste of home when you need it most. Most towns should have somewhere, especially with Korea’s plethora of cool cafes

8. Take photos

Of course you should take photos of your travels, but you should also take photos of the things you don’t quite understand. For example, your new apartment will likely have a washing machine with Korean instructions. Take a photo of the machine and the dials so that you can ask your Korean friends to help you decipher it. Ask lots of questions and come with the tools you need to best help yourself. Taking photos like this, as well of all the beauty you see, can help you mentally and emotionally transition to life in Korea. 

9. Get involved

Community is key no matter where in the world you are, especially when you’re transitioning to life in Korea. There are lots of opportunities to join soccer leagues, yoga classes, hiking groups, surfing clubs and oh so much more. By all means take this experience living abroad to try new things, but don’t sacrifice that which you already love. Meet new friends and engage your community by joining others with similar hobbies and interests.

10. Have no expectations!

This one can be a tall order. Get landed, get grounded, get into your routine, but then stay open! You have moved to a far away land and you are going to have weird and wonderful experiences! Be open to it and you will have way more fun than if you try to fit your experience into pre-defined expectations.

Your experience in South Korea will be different than that of anyone else. Be prepared, take advice but then get out there and have a blast! My experiences in that beautiful country helped shape the person that I have become because I let it. Let it be whatever it needs to be for you!

The best kind of advice is free advice. 

As I said, this journey is yours alone, and nothing can fully prepare you for it. But need some peace of mind in the meantime? Have some last minute questions? TAS Transition Experts are passionate about making your time in Korea as smooth as possible (they’re expats, too!). Free and awesome advice is only an email of skype call away.

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